Washington, February 5 : Infants develop "number sense" as soon as they become four and a half months old, say researchers.
Posting their findings in the online journal PLoS Biology, the researchers have revealed that this ability enables infants to detect changes in the number of objects.
Harvard University Psychology expert Veronique Izard, one of the authors of the study, claims that this study is the first to provide the neural basis for the ability of young children to notice changes in the number of objects.
The new study also provides brain-imaging evidence that very young infants are sensitive to both the number and identity of objects, and these pieces of information are processed by distinct neural pathways.
During the study, infants as old as three months were shown images of objects, and, simultaneously, the electrical activity evoked by their brains on the surface of their scalps was recorded. The number or identity of objects occasionally changed.
The researchers noticed that the infant brain responded to both changes, but in different brain regions, which map onto the same regions that activate in adults.
The results suggest that very young infants are sensitive to small changes in number, and the brain organization that underlies the perception of object number and identity are established early during development, say the researchers.